Preview 2017: Florida Atlantic Owls
Previewing and looking ahead at the Florida Atlantic season – and what you need to know.
– 2017 FAU Preview: Lane Kiffin Era Is A Success If …
– Florida Atlantic Previews: 2016 | 2015
What You Need To Know About The Florida Atlantic Offense
No matter what you think of them, the offensive coaches will be undeniably amazing, starting with the head man in Kiffin and with Kendal Briles – Art’s son – bringing aboard the Baylor attack.
The FAU offense was terrific at times on the ground, but spotty throwing the ball. With nine starters back, and with one of the nation’s best unknown 1-2 rushing punches, there’s a chance to blow up big right away. Greg Howell and Devin Singletary are both 1,000-yard caliber backs who can break a game open, and they should be even better as long as the blocking is fine. The line might not have a ton of talent, but it’ll be fine.
Can the passing game step up to the level Kiffin and Briles need it to be? Jason Driskel is back after an okay season, but he threw too many interceptions, and now he has to battle with controversial Florida State transfer De’Andre Johnson to get the gig. With a faster attack that’ll have a brisker tempo, it’s about getting the ball into the hands of the playmakers are quickly as possible.
Kalib Woods is a decent No. 1 target to work with, but the offense needs more game breaking receivers. Fortunately, there are 12 of the top 13 pass catchers are back.
Biggest Key To The Florida Atlantic Offense
De’Andre Johnson has to be the quarterback everyone expected to be the Florida State star. Obviously, there’s more to the equation than just what Johnson can do on the field – considering he left the FSU program after a video surfaced of him punching a woman. On the field, he’s exactly what the coaching staff wants. While he’s not huge – he’s 6-1, 200 pounds – he’s a big-time passer with good mobility to add even more on the ground than Driskel, who can run a little, too.
What You Need To Know About The Florida Atlantic Defense
Younger brother Chris Kiffin comes in from Ole Miss where he handled the Rebel defensive line, and now he has a ton of work to do with the revamped Owl defensive front.
FAU had the fifth-worst defense in the nation, having equal problems against the running and passing games. The secondary has the experience and the young talent, with CB Raekwon Williams and S Jalen Young two good veterans who can hit, but have to make more plays when the ball is in the air.
The linebacking corps should be productive around Azeez Al-Shaair, one of the league’s best all-around defenders, but that line has to undergo an overhaul after losing star pass rusher Trey Hendrickson. With plenty of 4-2-5 moments with lots of nickel packages being throw in, the front four has to get behind the line without Hendrickson handling the heavy lifting. And …
Biggest Key To The Florida Atlantic Defense
The run defense has to show up. The back seven can tackle and make plenty of hits, but that’s not always a plus. Obviously, that means the line isn’t coming up with enough plays, and last year’s FAU front four wasn’t even close, allowing close to 3,000 rushing yards and 37 scores. The Owls allowed 200 yards are more in nine of the last 11 games, with Middle Tennessee ripping up FAU for 495 yards and nine touchdowns in the season finale.
Florida Atlantic Will Be Far Better If …
The defense finds one thing it does well. The Owls were destroyed in the time of possession battle, and not because the offense cranked up quick scoring drives. The D was ripped apart by anyone and everyone and couldn’t get off the field – that has to change, and fast.
The time margin isn’t going to get any better with the Baylor-like offense about to be implemented, and the defense will have to hold up. There’s experience, but the production has to kick in. The run defense was miserable, and the pass D wasn’t even close, with opposing quarterbacks combining to hit 66% of their passes.
Best Florida Atlantic Offensive Player
RB Devin Singletary, Soph. – Or Greg Howell – the two go together. Howell was excellent, with 833 yards and 13 scores averaging five yards per carry with four 100-yard performances in the first seven games, but “Motor” took over the second half of the year.
Singletary led the team with 1,016 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging just under seven yards per carry. The 5-9, 200-pounder is more of a receiver than Singletary – catching 26 passes for 163 yards – but he was at his best on the ground, exploding for 252 yards and three scores against Rice and 235 yards and three touchdowns against Middle Tennessee, finishing with ten touchdown runs in the final four games.
2. QB De’Andre Johnson, Soph.
3. RB Greg Howell, Sr.
4. OT Antonyo Woods, Sr.
5. PK Greg Joseph. Sr.
Best Florida Atlantic Defensive Player
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Jr. – Trey Hendrickson might have been the star of the defense, but Al-Shaair was the do-it-all playmaker all over the field – not just into the backfield – with a team-high 112 tackles with two sacks, 11 tackles for loss and a pick six against FIU. The 6-2, 220-pounder blew up with 94 tackles as a freshman, and he’s turned into an even better all-around star. Expect him to be even more of a pass rusher.
2. S Jalen Young, Jr.
3. CB Raekwon Williams, Sr.
4. LB/DB Ocie Rose, Jr.
5. DE Haiden Nagel, Sr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DE Haiden Nagel, Sr. – There’s no replacing Hendrickson. Arguably the league’s best defender. Hendrickson came up with 51 tackles, 9.5 sacks, and 15 tackles for loss as the only real pass rusher and steady playmaker into the backfield coming from the line. Angel was okay – coming up with 37 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss – but the Owls need more disruptive forces outside of Al-Shaair.
The Florida Atlantic Season Will Be A Success If …
The Owls get to six wins and become bowl eligible. Four of the losses were by six points or fewer, and now with the coaching change along with the decent experience coming back, being three wins better is a good goal with winnable games against Bethune-Cookman, at Buffalo, North Texas, FIU, and at Charlotte to start with. Come up with a few upsets, and Lane is bowling.
Key Game To The Florida Atlantic Season
Sept. 30 vs. Middle Tennessee – If the Owls are slightly better, they should be 2-2 with losses to Navy and Wisconsin and wins over Bethune-Cookman and – maybe – Buffalo. Getting Middle Tennessee at home to start out the Conference USA season is a huge break before having to go on the road to Old Dominion – it’s a must win. Lose to the loaded Blue Raiders, and with a road game at WKU a few weeks later, a 1-3 league start – maybe beating North Texas – is almost certain.
2016 Florida Atlantic Fun Stats
– Touchdown Passes: Opponents 24 – Florida Atlantic 9
– 4th Down Conversions: Opponents 8-of-13 (62%) – Florida Atlantic 7-of-18 (34%)
– 2nd Half Scoring: Opponents 219 – Florida Atlantic 131